Saturday, 5 July 2014
There's something particularly eerie about an abandoned shopping mall. Perhaps it's the stark contrast from its intended purpose: to see such a sterile place once designed to entice throngs of shoppers into its doors, now so completely devoid of any human life, dilapidated and darkened with time. It's basically the very definition of post-apocalyptic. But in the case of the (now ironically named) New World shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, abandonment by humans doesn't equate with lifelessness. The mall, which reportedly caught fire in 1999 (rumored to be arson by a competitor), has since flooded with several feet of water and become a paradise for koi and catfish.
As seen in these photos from chef / travel writer Jesse Rockwell, the resulting "urban aquarium" is at once delightful and surreal. Rockwell writes on his travel, photography, and food blog A Taste of The Road that someone deliberately introduced the fish into the vacant mall, but that locals in Bangkok's old town "discourage people from visiting it." He says he had to wait for a policeman to leave before entering, which makes his resulting images all the more breathtaking.
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
As one of the world’s most popular holiday destination, Dubai has firmly established itself as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to tourism. Below are a few of many things you can see when you are in Dubai.
1. Guys texting and driving with their pets.
2. Strange dogs hanging out of windows.
3. People getting taken for walks by their pets.
4. Pets getting exotic snacks.
5. Supercar traffic jams.
6. Smart solutions to traffic jams.
7. Pets on boats.
8. Parked camels.
9. Car park attendants you don’t want to mess with.
10. Backseat drivers you back away from.
11. Bikes with a serious amount of horsepower.
12. Lamborghini cop cars.
13. Seriously, don’t mess.
14. Cops busting themselves.
15. Road hogs.
16. Reeeeeeeaaallllly double-wides.
17. Stand-up paddle boarders.
18. People walking their camels.
19. Bizarre balancing acts.
20. Cell phones worth more than your house.
21. ATMs spitting out gold.
22. Bathrooms that look like this.
23. Bedrooms that looks like this.
24. Grooms wanted.
25. Exotic cuisine.
26. Free food for the poor.
27. Modest Starbucks outlets.
28. Must-buy fashions.
29. Strict rules.
30. Culture clashes.
31. Unorthodox marriage counseling.
32. High-rise tennis courts.
33. Just insane views, generally.
34. More insane views.
35. Magnificent one.
Sunday, 22 June 2014
IN ancient times it was called the ‘Land of Yomi’, meaning land of the dead, a wilderness of dense cedar forests and high mountain passes, believed to be embedded with spirits of Japanese and Buddhist deities. Located in southeast Japan, everyone from emperors to lowly peasants have ventured on pilgrimages to the region. Their pilgrim routes threaded into the landscape through the centuries, leaving a series of trails that still exist today called the Kumano Kodo.
One of only two Unesco heritage treks in the world, the Kumano Kodo is located in the mountainous Kii Peninsula of the Kumano region, often credited with embodying the spiritual culture of Japan. Less than a two hour bullet train ride from Kyoto, the region is in stark contrast to the throbbing urban congestion of Japan’s old capital. One of the more unexplored parts of country, its quaint local villages, hot spring baths and breathtaking scenery are well off the beaten path of Japan’s tourist hot spots.
Despite being registered as a world heritage site, the Kumano Kodo is relatively unknown in comparison to its Unesco counterpart, the well-travelled Camino de Santiago trek in Northern Spain. For travellers who dare to take the road less traveled, the Kumano Kodo is an opportunity for trekkers to step into an authentic and untouched setting of rural Japan, void of crowds and tourist cliches.
Traditionally pilgrims came to the region to visit the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano: Hongu Taisha, Hayatama Taisha, and Nachi Taisha, collectively referred to as Kumano Sanzan. When Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 6th century, it merged with the local Shinto beliefs and became rooted in the Kumano region. It was during this period that temples and shrines began to be built deep in the mountainous region and the earliest Kumano Kodo trails were formed. Along these trails were scattered the diminutive Oji shrines of the local deities, where prayers and religious rites could be given and which are still standing today.
There are five main trails that still exist, varying from-two day treks to week-long excursions, and even and longer. Detailed maps of the routes are available online or at information centres, although organized trekking guides are available and recommended for the longer trails.
The Nakahechi Trail is the most popular and recommended route. It is a 30km, two-day trek that is accessible for all levels, with well-placed markers to guide trekkers throughout. Accommodation is available in the few local villages visited on the trail, and many family inns have access to the hot spring baths found in the region.
All trails, regardless of where they start, bring trekkers inland through the Kii mountain peninsula, through rural hamlets and terraced rice fields, along trickling waterfalls and over steep mountain passes to where the Kumano shrines reside and Japan’s spiritual culture began.
Thursday, 19 June 2014
Few places provide the opportunity to see the aftermath of a violent natural calamity. The town of Beichuan is one of them.
Beichuan is a rural town located approximately 143 kilometers north of the provincial capital of Chengdu, in China, in a valley well-known for the Longmen or Dragon Gate seismic fault. In May 12, 2008, the town was ravaged to the ground by a devastating earthquake measuring 7.9 magnitude in the Richer scale that rocked the region and reduced large swathes of Sichuan province to a hellish jumble of concrete and limbs. More than 90,000 people are believed to have died - 8,600 in Beichuan alone, or almost half of the town’s population. Among these were 1,300 children when a large populated school collapsed.
After the earthquake shattered the town, the government was faced with the insurmountable task of cleaning up the place and providing shelter to those displaced. With more than 80% of the buildings in Beichaun leveled to the ground, this was proving to be a logistical challenge. Condition was further aggravated by landslides that buried the town under several stories worth of mud. Finally, it was decided that Beichuan would never be rebuilt, or even excavated, but would remain in its current state as a memorial.
Today, Beichuan appear frozen in time, preserved almost exactly as they fell. In this giant open-air memorial, visitors can witness first-hand the devastation brought upon this mountainous corner of south-west China. The memorial represents one of the only cases of preserving the ruins of a modern city that has been struck by an earthquake. The town is mostly preserved as the earthquake left it, save for support structure around buildings to make the ruins safe for visitors. Many of the buildings appear much as they did only a few minutes after the earthquake struck.
Beichun surviving population were moved to a new town down hill in Yongchang, 12 miles away from the old site.